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Diary of Anne Frank

a Drama
CATEGORY : DRAMA
by Frances Goodwrich

COMPANY : Act 3 Productions [WEBSITE]
VENUE : Act 3 Playhouse [WEBSITE]
ID# 4003

SHOWING : April 29, 2011 - May 08, 2011

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PRODUCTION DESCRIPTION


CAST & CREW LIST
Director Jesse Cramer
Stage Manager Casey Hofmann
Light Technician Shelby Marie Lynn
Mr. Van Daan Joel Rose
Mr. Kraler Murray Sarkin
Mrs. Van Daan Candy Cain Spahr
Anne Frank Jo Jo Steine
Mr. Dussel Evan Weisman
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REVIEWS

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A Small Patch of Sky
by Dedalus
Thursday, June 2, 2011
4.5
"I keep my ideals, because in spite of everything I still believe that people are really good at heart."
- Anne Frank


The story of Anne Frank and her family has become part of the fabric of our war remembrances, of the history of the holocaust. In the rush to canonize, we often forget that, in spite of her extreme circumstances, she was a real young woman going through the growth pains all young women go through. We forget that her diary reveals a “chatterbox,” a flirt, a rebellious daughter, an intelligent and curious mind, a precocious imagination with a flair for organizing her thoughts into a highly readable journal, a young woman whose life ended far too early and whose memory lingers due mostly to her own efforts.

Anne Frank was only thirteen when she, her parents, her sister, and another family (the van Daan’s) went into hiding in a “secret annex” of her father’s office. Forced to remain utterly silent during daylight hours, forced to survive on purloined ration books supplied by close friends, they remained prisoners of their hiding place for over two years until a Gestapo raid sent them to their inevitable fate. Throughout the two years in hiding, they bickered and grew and endured hunger and illness and crowded conditions. Throughout the two years in hiding, they survived. Once discovered, only one would return to find the abandoned diary and bring it to the world.

In 1955, a theatrical adaptation by Frances Goodrich and Albert Hackett opened on Broadway, and, to this day, it is mainstay of revival houses, schools, and other theater groups. Amazingly, Act 3 Productions’ staging is the first time I’ve seen it on stage, and I found it to be a nicely directed (by Jesse Cramer), movingly performed experience. The small playing area was divided into several cramped levels, and, to drive home the point of their confinement, the cast was required to remain onstage during intermission, finding “stuff” to quietly occupy their time while we “daytime workers” puttered around the lobby and refreshment stand.

Jo-Jo Steine leads the cast with a fully developed characterization as Anne. She starts out as a bit of a brat, mellows into an engaging teenager, discovers “first love” joys and crises, chafes at the restrictions put on her by her parents, and fully engages with us as her “diary.” She makes all the digressions seem natural, the wry comments on the characters of her “annex-mates” amusing (and often sharply pointed), and impresses with her intelligence and optimism. This is an Anne who is thoroughly engaging, who comes alive as a real person going through all the same adolescent agonies we all try to forget, who doesn’t let her extreme circumstance dull her enthusiasm for life and what will come “after the war.”

As her father, Otto Frank, Mark J. Perman is equally engaging, creating a source of strength the others cling to, and moving us all with his final quiet “what happened next” speech at the end. I also liked Kathleen Seconder’s Edith and Luna Manela’s Margot – all four Franks behaved like a real family, letting petty irritations overwhelm good sense, not losing a strong undercurrent of that “we will get through this together” connection that drives this play. As the van Daan’s, Joel W. Rose, Candy Spahr, and Gregory Scott Baldwin are a distinct contrast, often at odds, always a layer or two disconnected from their circumstances. In smaller roles, Evan Weisman, Johnna Barrett Mitchell, and Murray Sarkin fill out the story at just the right places.

If I have any complaint, it is with the three “Nazi extras” who come on at the end – all were so physically “off type” as to create a major distraction (a young man with a long seventies hairstyle, a woman with a decidedly Semitic appearance, an older gentleman with a “gone-to-seed” out-of-shape physique).

But, quibbles aside, it is the engagement of the main cast who really sell this production, who bring alive Anne’s story, making her so much more than an icon or a myth. We all know how her story ends (and, in a cosmic slap in the face, it ends only two months before the liberation of Amsterdam). But we still can’t help watching, can’t help being drawn to this vibrantly compelling young woman who was never afraid to tell us (her diary) what she really thought, or what she experienced, or what she tried to hide from everyone else. We can only be thankful her chronicle survived, that her story will be around to provide that remembrance, that “small patch of blue sky” that can salvage even the darkest of days.

And we can definitely be thankful for this production that brings to life the horror that was the holocaust.

"And finally I twist my heart round again, so that the bad is on the outside and the good is on the inside, and keep on trying to find a way of becoming what I would so like to be, and could be, if there weren't any other people living in the world."
-- Anne Frank



-- Brad Rudy (BKRudy@aol.com)


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